Topic 003 - Trav's NetHack Shoplifting
This miniature strategy guide (SPOILER ALERT) uses shoplifting
tactics to help illustrate NetHack's gameplaying depth.
Here are the different ways to rob shops (in descending order of
1. Locating a shop
2. Using your pet as an accomplice
3. Teleporting out of the shop
4. Digging your way out
5. Neutralizing the shopkeeper
6. Other ways
1. Locating a Shop
In NetHack, shops at scattered randomly
throughout the dungeon rather than being located on "ground" level as in Angband
or ADOM. The first step to shoplifting is therefore locating a shop.
Where can shops appear?
- About 1/5 of the dungeon levels contains shops.
- Shops never appear on dungeon level 1.
- Shops never appear in the Gnomish mines.
- Town levels contain multiple shops (usually around 4).
- Towns appear on roughly 1/20 of the levels, starting around level
How do you know if you're on a shop level?
- Sometimes you will hear "you hear someone cursing
- Shops are usually located near the sides of the map (as opposed to
2. Using your
pet as an accomplice
NetHack lets you have pets. Unlike in many Roguelike games,
pets can follow you to different levels and gain experience. Pet acquisition and
management is certainly worth a topic in itself.
Once you have a pet, robbing the shop is pretty easy, but requires
- Wait for your pet to walk into the shop.
- Move into the doorway, trapping your pet inside the shop.
- Do not actually enter the shop.
- Occasionally your pet will pick up an item, carry it around for a
while, and then drop it.
- If your pet drops an item right in front of you*,
step inside the door and pick it up.
- Return to your spot in the doorway. Voila! Free stuff!
* You can "tame" your
pet by feeding it often. The more tame it is, the more likely it is to drop food at
your feet. There are NetHack spoilers out there that give all the gory pet-taming
details. I plan to delve futher into this in a later topic.
The main advantage of using pets to rob shops is
that it's very safe; shopkeepers won't get mad at you, keystone cops
won't pop up all over the place, you never risk teleporting into a mob of monsters, and if
you get bored waiting for your pet you can also take a break for a while and come back
later. Also, pets never pick up cursed items.
out of the shop
If you don't have a pet or the patience to use him, then you might
want to think about using teleportation to escape from a shop.
Escaping from shops is risky because it causes
Keystone Kops to appear and chase after you. Also, the Shopkeeper will get mad and
might chase you down. Shopkeepers and viscious; they are very hard to kill. As
soon as you escape a shop, you should try to exit that dungeon level as soon as possible.
For that reason, you should explore and clear the rest of level before you
rob the shop.
To escape using teleportation, you first need to acquire the ability
- You can find an item of teleportation.
Potential teleportation items include scrolls, rings, amulets, wands, and maybe some
others that I've forgotten.
- If your character is intelligent and high level, you can learn the spell
of teleportation by reading a teleportation spellbook.
- You can acquire teleportation sickness by killing
and eating a leprechaun or nymph. [Yes, this is kind of gross; the NetHack is
vegetarian-unfriendly; but eating dead monsters is part of NetHack's fun!]
Teleportation sickness causes you to teleport every few hundred turns. This can be
annoying and dangerous at times, but it can also save your life if you're getting beaten
up, and it allows you to teleport out of a shop. High level characters with teleportation
sickness are able to teleport at will (ctrl-T, I think).
- If your character is low level/unintelligent, try to find some
spellbooks. Reading a spellbook that is too complex for you will sometimes cause you
to experience a wrenching sensation which teleports you to somewhere else
on the level.
- If you still don't have teleportation ability and are desperate
to rob the shop, you can risk it by walking into the shop, picking up a bunch of objects,
and hoping that one of them will give you teleportation. This is a big,
last-ditch gamble, but it has worked for me [about half the time].
Once you are in the shop and have teleportation ability, then:
- Grab whatever loot you want (as quickly as
possible if you have teleportation sickness which might trigger at any moment)
- When you are ready, teleport out of there by
reading the scroll, zapping the wand at yourself, casting the spell, putting on the
ring/amulet (and waiting) or killing time until the teleportation sickness kicks in.
The mad dash...
- Once you are out of the shop, make a bee-line for the staircase
- If the shopkeeper leaves the store to find you, avoid him at all
costs. Unless you are a very high level character, he will kick your butt.
- The Keystone Kops that pop up when you escape are pretty wimpy, but
they slow down your sprint to the stairs by crowding around you and blinding you with
Teleportation has some inherent risks that other forms of escaping don't.
- You could teleport to another location within the
stop. If that was your one teleportation use, you're screwed. You'll have to
drop all your unpaid items (assuming you haven't used any) or you can always commit
suicide by attacking the shopkeeper. :)
- You might teleport to a location close to the shop
or far away from the stairs. This makes your mad dash for the
stairs harder. If the shopkeeper catches you before you reach them, you're dead.
- You might teleport into a nest of particularly nasty monsters.
This is always a risk of using teleportation, and not unique to shoplifting.
Tips on making teleportation safer:
- Teleport to a new level if at all possible.
This way you avoid the Keystone Kops and angry shopkeeper. Just hope that the new
level is deeper than the current one so you don't have to pass through here!
- Find and wear a ring of teleportation control.
This will let you detemine the location to which you'll teleport. This is a
very useful item (almost as cool as polymorph control).
4. Digging your way out
If you can't teleport, you can try digging.
This is harder to pull off than teleporting because shops and shopkeeprs have
evolved over the different versions of NetHack to protect themselves specifically against
thelf-by-digging. It's been a long time since I escaped by digging, but I'm pretty
sure it can still be done...
First, you need to get a digging implement:
- wand of digging
- spell of digging (does this exist?)
- scroll of digging (???)
Sneak the implement inside the shop (or just walk in if you have some
sort of digging ability)
- In old versions of NetHack I was able to throw a
pickaxe through the door, but I don't think this works anymore.
- You might be luck and find an implement inside the
store [like in a tool shop]
- You might be able to put the implement in a bag or similar container
and sneak it in that way, but I'm not sure this will work.
If you manage to find yourself in a shop with a digging implement, then:
- Grab whatever loot you want.
- Dig a hole into the floor and jump through. This
may or may not work; I recall shopkeepers snatching my backpack from me as I fell through
- Alternatively, try digging through a wall. I
think shopkeepers have the ability to fix holes in the wall faster than you can dig them,
so this also might not work.
As a last resort, you can try to kill, trivialize,
or immobilize the shopkeeper long enough for you to slip past him. This
is seldom easy.
- If you have a wand of polymorph, you can zap the
shopkeeper and hope he turns into something wimpy which you can kill or ignore. He will
get made when you zap him, so either you'll escape or you'll die.
- You could also try to zap the shopkeeper with a wand of teleport.
Again, this will make him mad, and you will have to make a rush for the stairs, hoping he
doesn't get to you first...
- If you drink a potion of invisibility, the
shopkeeper will stand directly in front of the door. This means you can pelt him
with missiles and spells from a distance. If you run out of ammo, you better pray
you can utilize a backup plan before the invisibility wears off.
- A ring of invisibility is even better [because it
doesn't wear off], but shopkeepers won't let you in their store with one. I
don't remember if you have to be carrying one or wearing one for a shopkeeper to
bar your entrance.
If you can't neutralize the shopkeeper from a distance, then prepare for a hard and most
likely short fight.
- Try to become fast and lucky.
- Try to slow the shopkeeper down with a wand or
- Cross your fingers and get ready to pray.
Yes, I've killed shopkeepers before, when I had really
high level characters, but 99% of the time when I attack a shopkeeper I end up getting
slaughtered. Be forewarned!
Even if you die, it's not the end of the world, because future characters
can come along and grab your items (if this becomes a bones level).
- Try to die somewhere outside of the shop.
This way, future characters won't have to pay for the items.
- Drop as many items as you can (including
wielded/worn items) before you die. This reduces [or maybe even eliminates] the
chance of those items being cursed.
- Jonathan Nieder has informed me that in old versions of Hack,
shopkeepers will continue to chase the character who stole from them (who
is now a ghost). This means tha subsequent characters can "just walk into the
shop and take out whatever you want." We don't know if this still works.
6. Other ways
There are probably other ways to rob shops that I
haven't mentioned here.
If you know of one [or more], please let me know so that I can add it to the site.